A combined bookshop, café, delicatessen and homeware shop in St Boswells is once again in the running to be named Britain’s Best Small Shop.
Having been shortlisted in the same competition – run by the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC) – in 2015, when they were one of only two shops given a “highly reccomended” tag, Bill and Rosamund de la Hey, owners of Mainstreet Trading Company, are delighted at getting a second go at winning the title.
The business is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, having added a Deli & Home section in 2012, thereby expanding its customer base.
However, it’s what it does behind the scenes that is catching the judges’ eyes.
Innovations introduced by the business include the ‘A Year of Books’ subscription service; Book Burrows, two ‘dens’ where the shop plays children’s audio books, and the Love Your Indie book loyalty card.
Rosamund is also passionate about her bid to “break the barrier” between children and books by taking authors to Borders primary schools and letting the children meet them, face to face.
“We are always looking for ways to engage with the local community,” said Rosamund. “Whether that’s through our bookshop van, which aims to ensure every child in the Borders meets an author through Mainstreet during their school life; through our Summer Reading Diary where children review up to six books with the winners receiving their height in books or our noticeboard to publicise free local arts events.”
Rosamund added: “We launched the bookvan in 2016 with Michael Morpurgo [author of War Horse] and it’s been going strong ever since.
“Our next one is in a couple of weeks, with illustrator Chloe Inkpen.
“To have every child meet an author in their primary school years, we need to reach around 1,500 children a year.
“It’s important thing for us to do, as passionate supporters of children’s books.”
With the rise of electronic book readers, it is heartening to the de la Heys to see there are still people passionate about the printed word.
Rosamund added: “The last time we were in this competition there were three bookshops shortlisted. This time there are four, which is really encouraging in the current climate.”
The Best Small Shops competition is sponsored by booost, the brand new loyalty, gift and promotions app for independent retailers and their customers, and celebrates the commitment and creativity of independent retailers in the UK and the central role they play in their local communities.
The winner will be announced at an event at the Houses of Parliament on November 13.
“Despite all of the bad headlines and the high-profile closures of larger stores, we firmly believe that specialist independent retailers can thrive in this climate by delivering a truly unique retail experience,” said Mark Walmsley, chairman of the IRC.
“The Best Small Shops competition enables us celebrate this unique industry, the passion, service, flexibility and knowledge of independent shop owners offer and show customers what makes independent retailers so special.”